‘We’re on the cusp of a revolution, now is the time to come home’
My name is Raphael Afaedor, CEO, Supermart.ng, co-founder & ex-MD Jumia Nigeria. I’m a Software Engineer with a Master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School, an Entrepreneur and a member of the Africa Leadership Network.
I left Nigeria right after high school for university. Life in a foreign country for me was very much what I made it – fun. I see a lot of people who travel and quickly want to create little Ghana, little Nigeria wherever they go. They mix only with their country folk, spend all day looking for ingredients to cook their country food, listen to their country music etc. I was quite the opposite. I integrated, learnt to eat the local food and learnt to hang out with the locals the local way.
I began my career at Monster.com where I rose to become Senior Manager in charge of Software Product Development for 18 Western European countries. I then worked as an Associate Investment Manager at Goldman Sachs.
My role involved advising clients and buying and selling financial securities, such as stocks for them. I found Goldman to be an incredible organization and extremely well run, I felt super proud to be associated with the brand, and I learnt a lot from driven and hardworking people.
But I soon realized that it wasn’t my calling and would never feel happy doing that for all my life. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, solving peoples’ problems by conceptualizing products, and selling it to them as the ultimate proof of the solution.
I decided to go to business school at Harvard, believing I would be challenged. At Harvard, I found the challenge I wanted in an amazing community of smart, hardworking, driven and supportive people. But then I realized that what I was truly passionate about was Africa and contributing my energy and intellect to solving its problems. So, I decided to return to the continent with the knowledge and experience I had acquired during university, after university and during business school, to contribute to the development of the continent I am most passionate about.
Upon my return to the continent, I spent time at Notore Chemical Industries in Nigeria where I headed Marketing & Business Development for West, Central & North African countries including Nigeria.I loved the job because I felt I was now making a real impact in people’s lives, helping subsistence farmers increase their output and put their kids in school, increasing the food supply of Nigeria and more. It was work that gave me a lot of meaning. But I would still go home and spend half the night doing Technology. I realized while I enjoyed agriculture, technology was my first love.
Jumia was fun. We started with nothing but a vision of what is possible, and ran a very fast race. Prior to Jumia, the idea of online sales in Nigeria practically seemed unrealistic, getting people to believe in the system, bringing them to the level of trust they have attained in the industry today did not come cheap but it paid off eventually. It’s extremely rewarding to see all the local and international talent that has come through as a consequence of the work we did and the myriad of new technology companies that have been started by Jumia alumni. It’s also very rewarding to see African e-commerce in the global technology conversation because we dreamt of a future and built it.
Supermart.ng is Nigeria’s leading grocery delivery service and largest online supermarket. We have partnered with most of the leading grocery chains in Lagos to avail customers with the largest assortment of groceries and everyday essentials, over 70,000 items. Our customers can buy literally everything from local ingredients like Shaki and Ponmo, to supermarket items, alcohol and drinks, baby products, beauty and cosmetic products, office supplies, medicines and more.
My message to Africans considering making the move home is: I can say with certainty that it will not be easy initially, but it will be absolutely worth it. We are on the cusp of a massive revolution, literally like Silicon Valley in the 1970’s and China in the 1990’s. Now is the time to come home. Skills are needed across the board.